My last posting elicited a storm of very intelligent comments, so I will pause and offer ten capsule replies here, before resuming my riff on "majority rule in American political life."
1 - I do not claim that "consensus" can always replace majority rule. That would be as simplistic a notion as majority rule itself.
What I MEAN is that consensus should be a mature goal of anyone who prefers a decent civilization over one riven by divisiveness, rancor and bitterness. Imposition of majority will upon an angry minority is at minimum regretable. More often it is a sign of political immaturity and failure to communicate.
Such an imposition of majority will may (though regretable) also be utterly right! As in the banishment of slavery and - later - Jim Crow. But the pain and danger were undergone as a last resort.
A pretty good example of mature politics happened during the Clinton Administration, when democrats stopped ignoring the useful portions of GOP criticism of the welfare system and started listening, at last, to the parts that made sense.
The resulting Welfare Reform Bill had its problems. As usual, the goody portions wound up with less funding than they needed (e.g. remedial job training for those forced off the dole.) But the overall results were a tonic for the nation and the exercise proved that "liberals" were NOT the sort of intransigent fools that they were soon to be portrayed... when this spirit of negotiation was abruptly dropped in favor of all-out "Culture War."
2 - I do not agree that political indecision is always good. (Notice that many on the right, who praised divided govt under Clinton, are now happy to ignore the loot-and-spend frenzy that has taken place once their side got all the reins.) Government has jobs to do. We need accountability! That will allow some degree of vigor, where govt is needed... while allowing us to quickly notice and act when it starts putting its hands where they don't belong.
3 - I am willing to stay with our present system. Which emphasizes the individual representative and not the party. You are more likely to get both kooks and statesmen... each with some value, now and then. Parliamentism forces you to believe in a party line. An official ideology. An imperfect model of the world, interpreted by an imperfect party hierarchy. The US system lets local constituencies vote for the specific man or woman, sometimes quirky and willing to cross party lines. (Though not, alas, at present.)
4 - I have many suggestions to improve the present system, but they must be ranked by plausibility. And any tinkering with the Constitution is by nature (and perhaps rightly) implausible. (I'd love to see a preferential ballot like Australia (and the Hugo Awards) in which you can 1st vote your heart and then get a second chance to vote pragmatic.)
Hence I would reform the Electoral College with a couple of tweaks that DON'T require amendments.
(a) File a lawsuit against winner-takes-all allocation of electors and force proportional allocation, as is done in Maine and Nebraska.
(b) Encourage electors to realize that they are supposed to DELIBERATE! They might even (as I had hoped in 2000) make a gesture now and then. Lieberman should have been W's veep. Just two electors could have made it happen! And the message thus sent would have outweighed any actual power Lieberman attained.
That one move would have told W "You do NOT have a mandate. You have the power to prove you are a real man and a real american by leading us all." But all of his electors were loyal, unimaginative hacks.
(c) Main urgent item? SCREAM if your state and precinct still has touch screen systems that don't also create hand-autitable paper ballots that go into a sealed ballot box. Scream, then scream louder! Or you betray your nation. No less than that.
Also encourage EARLY voter registration by anyone reasonable and have them MAKE SURE THEY ARE ACTUALLY ON THE ROLLS, months in advance. Party-based exclusion in Ohio & Florida was rampant.
(d) Other suggestions? We desperately need to establish the office of Inspector General of the United States. Remind me! I will post my mini essay about this.
5 - Oh, fight plans to make your state political districts "fair and balanced" by taking redistricting out of the hands of politicians.
Surprised? See http://www.davidbrin.com/realculturewar1.html where I decry many ways that gerrymandering is evil. Our governator is proposing this measure and it sounds great. I HATE gerrymandering.
And yet I oppose Schwarznegger's move.
Because what we really need is either a federal law, so it happens everywhere, or DEALS that make it happen simultaneously in an equal number of democrat/GOP districts. GuvAhnold could negotiate such a deal with say Utah+Georgia+Fla. But he won't. ANd dang if I will support making things "fair" in blue states while leaving it all corrupt in the Confederacy.
(BTW...an idea. Spread the word that we should change blue/red metaphors to blue/gray!)
6 - I have long believed that the virtual districts concept - creating representation by affirmative affinity, rather than majority stomping on minority - was a good idea! But the Constitution....
7 - Thanks for sharing the Limbaugh Big Lie that - ' Liberals never achieve anything. They just sit around and endlessly talk and are always pessimistic.' Goebbels would be proud! I hear Limbaugh (like many conservatives) even dares to display a picture of Martin Luther King on his wall! Gahhhhhh!
Dare me some time to present my "list of major US political accomplishments in the 20th Century." The list is very long. Most items are now - restrospectively - seen as good and great, by consensus. And only two items are even remotely related to initiatives proposed by the GOP.
It is absolutely devastating. And - mind you - I do NOT disagree with as many "conservative" or "libertarian" positions as you might think! There are many ways to contribute to a civilization and the conservative mindset has its creative roles to play.
But re: major US consensus or law-driven accomplishments, Limbaugh is spreading a diametric lie. RL's position would make even Goebbels blush.
8 - Oh yes, the other item "If liberals don't like someone, they and the liberal mainstream media will simply amplify everything negative about that person, be it Bolton, Owens, Janice Brown etc. and will never present them in a fair light."
Yeah? Let's recall the 8 year campaign of lies about the Clintons. Some of the lies were at least political. (e.g. predicting a "tsunami of indictments" after the GOP gained power: seen any?) But the relentless smear campaign against the Clintons' MARRIAGE? Where did that come from? And WHY???? Can there have been any reason at all other than petty meanmindedness?
I saw, first hand, under very credible circumstances, what "Bill & Hill" thought of each other. And lemme tell you something. Those two reeeeelly liked each other.
That entirely unnecessary, brutal and vicious assault upon their family was not only unnecessary and hypocritical (most of the "House Prosecutors" who went after BC had had messy divorces - some incredibly immoral). I was also simply evil.
(And the phrase -- "Liberal mainstream media?????" Eeeeeeek! Goebbels strikes again!)
9 - One of you suggested to limit the total number of words in federal law, so that new laws must first edit the old ones, or at least simplify. Good idea.
Al Gore was the first person in the republic's history to actually DO that. Fat lot of credit he got. Again, a great conservative idea... and nothing happens till a democrat "sees the light."
10 - I agree that "progressive" is a better word than "modernism".
But it is already freighted with left-right meaning, alas.
My whole reason to pick 'modernism' is that it has already obsolesced into disuse. It can be picked up and dusted off and given OUR chosen meaning! It lets us strike out at orthogonal angles.
If we establish from the start that Modernism has almost many leftist enemies (e.g. postmodernists) as those on the right, then we have a chance to convince millions of conservative modernists out there that we are offering them a real home. In exchange for pulling their support from the regressive troika (kleptocrats neocons-apocalypts) they may join reasonable moderates of all kinds and work together, finding pragmatic ways to make a better world.
A new movement that will push some libertarian-conservative values, as well... so long as they are aimed at the overall goal of human progress.
Well, it's a thought....
Thanks all. You are a very bright bunch. More soon.